President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his commitment to complete the peace process with the communist rebels following his meeting with “leftist” members of his Cabinet in Malacañang on Monday.
Duterte met with Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Liza Maza weeks after the collapse of peace negotiations between the communist group and the government.
They were joined by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd, the chairman of the government panel in the talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines/ New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF).
In a statement, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said the President discussed the prospects of peace with communist rebels after the termination of the negotiations and the cancellation of the unilateral ceasefire.
“The President reiterated his desire and passion of bringing about just, lasting, and inclusive peace in the land,” Dureza said.
“On the CPP/NPA/NDF, he gave specific instructions on how to deal with the present situation, including possible next steps following the cancellation of peace talks and the unilateral ceasefire declarations. He lamented that the almost 50-year-old insurgency and conflict still continue to this day and vowed to work for a strategic shift during his incumbency,” he added.
The President scrapped the peace talks after CPP canceled its unilateral ceasefire over the government’s failure to release hundreds of political prisoners.
Duterte had raised hopes of ending the communist insurgency that has stunted development for years, especially in Mindanao.
A ceasefire was declared in August last year and last month, the government asked the United States to remove the CPP founder and leader, Jose Ma. Sison, from its terrorist blacklist to move negotiations forward. But both sides later traded accusations of truce violations and negotiating in bad faith.
Duterte said he had “walked the extra mile” to bring peace by resuming talks and freeing rebel leaders.
Malacañang had said that peace talks can resume if the communist group stop extorting money from citizens and other hostile acts.